HL Roundup - 10th Dec 2011

  Highland League round-up
Saturday December 10th
Academy hold off champions after storming start

Academy produced a performance to be proud of in holding double champions Buckie Thistle to a 3-3 draw in the only Highland League fixture to beat the freeze.

The Scorries got off to a storming start at Victoria Park with a two-goal salvo from Davie Allan and Gary Weir inside the opening six minutes - and they should have had a penalty into the bargain. After the Jags turned things round to go 3-2 up, Joe Steven pounced late on to secure a share of the points.

The result ended a long barren run for Academy in away games against Buckie. They had lost on each of their last seven visits to Victoria Park - six league matches and a Qualifying Cup tie - dating back to the 2005/06 season.

Michael Gray was handed another start in goal and Grant Steven was recalled after recovering from his hamstring injury. Gary Manson travelled with the squad but didn't feature in the line-up, while Richard Macadie started on the bench.

Academy went into the match looking to do the double over the Jags, having beaten them 3-1 when the sides met at Harmsworth Park in August. And the visitors got off to a sensational start with a goal in the third minute.

A slick passing move culminated with Craig Shearer threading an inch-perfect pass to Allan, who ran through and fired it into the bottom right-hand corner from 14 yards.

The home fans were doubly stunned when Academy went two up in the sixth minute. Allan and Weir played a neat one-two on the edge of the Buckie box. Weir took the return pass with his back to goal before turning smartly and despatching a left-foot shot into the net off the inside of a post.

With 10 minutes on the clock Academy had a stonewall penalty claim turned down. Allan was through on goal only to be pulled down by keeper Darren Strong - but, to the amazement of just about everyone in the ground, referee Thomas Shaw waved play on.

Buckie threatened with a Zander Sutherland strike from 18 yards which forced an excellent diving save from Gray. The experienced keeper was at it again soon after as he dived full-length to deny Neil Davidson.

The Jags reduced the deficit in the 20th minute when Sutherland whipped in a cross and Martin Charlesworth drove it home from close range.

The home side were piling on the pressure and they got themselves level after 23 minutes with a cracking goal from Paul Napier. He drove up the right flank and curled an unstoppable shot into Gray's bottom right-hand corner from 20 yards.

Allan almost restored Academy's lead on 37 minutes with a powerful shot that Strong managed to flick wide, and the livewire Wick striker came close again with a shot into the side-netting.

Academy were forced to make a substitution before the break when Grant Steven went off injured to be replaced by Shaun Sinclair.

Buckie got their noses in front after 56 minutes when Graeme Stewart rose to meet a Napier corner and sent a glancing header high into the net.

Academy made another a change with 65 minutes gone as Stewart Ross was replaced by Macadie.

Gray kept Academy in the game with impressive saves from Sutherland and Napier. Then, with four minutes remaining, Academy grabbed a well-deserved equaliser.

Steven had a shot from 18 yards that was blocked by a defender, but the rebound sat up nicely for him and he blasted it over Strong and into the far corner.

Stewart and Allan came close at either end in the dying stages before Mr Shaw called a halt to an incident-packed encounter that had been a great advert for Highland League football.

It was the first time Academy had avoided defeat on a visit to Victoria Park since winning 2-0 in a league match in March 2005.